Long-term partnerships sometimes require compromise solutions, – the owner of the shopping center “French Boulevard”
Why did you decide to go into the development industry?
Probably because this direction attracted me from a young age, only then I did not know that this activity was called development. I liked to come up with new types of functions for some premises, think about how and what can be done to make the object more useful for its inhabitants or the city as a whole.
And by the time I approached the implementation of my first, truly large-scale development project, I already had experience in implementing smaller, but very useful objects based on experience. This project was the shopping center “Prism” (in Kharkiv at that time there were no shopping malls built since the independence of Ukraine, or more precisely, since the ’80s in Kharkiv. There were many reconstructions of the shopping centers, which were located in basements and other buildings where it was possible, but they were not built). That was 2000, and that’s when I had the idea of building a new shopping center. By the way, it was called like that because it was located between two metro stations, which had the form of glazed structures, and the shopping center itself, according to our idea, had to become a modern space where people will be comfortable to do shopping. Therefore, we wanted to make it as accessible, transparent, and attention-grabbing as possible. And a very interesting fact: the main architect of this project was Oleg Drozdov. It was my first working experience with Drozdov, and overall, it was the first large-scale project for both of us. Now Oleg’s works are known not only in Kharkiv but also outside Ukraine. Perhaps the most discussed object under his authorship is the reconstruction of the theater located on the Andriyivsky descent, in Kyiv. To realize the most modern and at the same time functional object, it is necessary to involve professionals who can help in the implementation of such projects with their experience and talent. This is one of the principles that I consider most important in development.
I like that I am involved in the development of our city. It gives me additional strength and inspiration for new achievements.
What should the dream city look like?
For me, the dream city is primarily one where harmony is fully present. Where a person, as the main inhabitant of this space, feels comfortable in all manifestations of life: on vacation, at work, in creative activities, and in moments when he can enjoy communicating with friends and family. This is a city where modern architecture and park zones are combined, where a person can feel alone with nature. This is a city where its inhabitants could realize all their dreams. This is a city where happy people live!
How can business affect the development of the city, the region?
Business can have a key impact on the development of the city, the region, and in general – on the development of the country. This may sound somewhat egocentric, but first of all, the business should defend its interests and promote the market economy. This one factor is enough to help the city, the region, the country becomes much more successful and better for its inhabitants. There are quite a few examples in the world where the right business approach ensured the rapid development of all regions and countries as well as their success in overcoming many economic and political obstacles. It is the market economy that can turn even a backward country into a rapidly developing successful state.
And in this sense, the European Business Association is a very effective and universal tool for protecting and promoting business interests.
Your project "French Boulevard" in Kharkiv was recognized as the best shopping and entertainment center in the city. How to gain the love of customers, get their loyalty and become a lovemark brand?
A few interesting facts about the shopping and entertainment center “French Boulevard”: an agreement on the purchase of unfinished construction (which would later be built with “French Boulevard”), was signed on February 14, 2003. So, one of our main slogans is “Everything starts with love!”
For several years, the shopping and entertainment center “French Boulevard” was rated best in Kharkiv by the customers.
We love our work, we love our guests, we do everything to ensure that this love is mutual. This means a lot of work with market analysis and the right-decision making. Back in 2004, we did a study to understand the main reasons why people would come to this place. The survey showed that the skating rink came first followed by the cinemas, supermarkets, bowling, etc. In winter, Kharkiv usually turns into a city with about 300 rinks opened in different places, and these are one of the favorite places for entertainment. According to the results of the survey, we decided to start our project on the construction of an ice rink. We opened the first commercial skating rink in Kharkiv in 2005. Before that, you could skate only in the Palace of Sports and only late at night.
For consultations, we attracted at that time the only international company in Ukraine with experience in implementing large-scale projects of shopping centers not only outside Ukraine but also in our country. This is Colliers International. Back then, they were completing the reconstruction of the industrial building in the shopping and entertainment center “Karavan” in Kyiv. Their experience in the implementation of such projects was very important to us. As I said earlier, the involvement of professionals with sufficient experience is of great importance in the development, and this is what we do throughout the history of the “French Boulevard” shopping mall. We were able to attract unique operators to our mall such as “Planeta Kino” with the only IMAX hall in Kharkiv. In our shopping and entertainment center for the first time in Ukraine, a 4DX hall was opened where full-length films with 4D effects are shown on the big screen. But these were difficult decisions. For example, in order to get a consultation at Collier’s, we had to pay, at that time, quite a lot. And to place the IMAX hall, we had to break the existing structure and increase the height of the building by one and a half meters to accommodate the largest screen in Kharkiv. We installed a copy of the 36 m high Eiffel Tower which became a favorite place for photoshoots and selfies. And this is only part of the work that we do every day to remain a favorite shopping mall.
How did the year 2020 affect your company? Did the new reality change your work?
I think that for all companies, 2020 has been a year of tests and also opportunities to overcome them and improve all business processes. It was a difficult year for us because for quite a long time there were restrictions on the work of the shopping and entertainment centers. This has led to a deterioration in visits, demand, and income of our tenants, and accordingly the income of the shopping and entertainment center.
The new reality of 2020 taught us one thing. Despite the difficulties, it is always necessary to look for new opportunities: first, to overcome and solve the issues that arise, and secondly, to look for new ways of development and new creative ideas that will make the business even more successful.
What do you expect from 2021? Will you launch new projects and collaborations?
In 2021, our company plans to focus on its competitive advantages, to focus on the uniqueness and the atmosphere that we create in our projects.
A shopping center of the new generation, what will it be like?
I talked about my first project, it was the Prism shopping center. Its area was only 4,000 square meters, but when we put it into operation, it was clear to me that the time had come for more large-scale plans, and then “French Boulevard” appeared. Already in 2003, we purchased a site with unfinished construction and began the implementation, at that time, of the most large-scale shopping mall project in Kharkiv. Its area has already amounted to more than 60,000 sq.m. Today, with this experience, I can say that the future is behind the shopping malls of a new level. This, in fact, is no longer an object, it is a space that contains many different functions, including housing, business, shops, places to relax, and much, much more. This is, in fact, a city in a city where everyone can find what is needed precisely for his successful life and comfort.
Describe in three words what the European Business Association is for you
A Tool for Success!
You have been a member of the EBA Kharkiv Board for more than 16 years, most of the period you were its Chair. What did you learn from that experience?
The first lesson: if you want to achieve something in business, you need to apply all available methods and tools, including those provided by the European Business Association. But without taking the necessary steps, you can never get the result that you could with the use of all the opportunities. This directly applies to the opportunities that EBA provides.
The second lesson is a continuation of the first. Having received a good tool, first, try to study the instruction, that is, fully understand in what form and how best to use the available tool to get the most effective result, and then – act and work on mistakes.
The third lesson is probably the most important. “Business” is not only a business but many more components that determine its success. It includes relationships, and the ability to interact with people. Relax, enjoy everything that surrounds us, and for this, it is necessary to create all conditions and notice opportunities.
Let′s have 16 more years together! In your opinion, what is the recipe for long-term partnerships?
In the recipe of long-term partnerships, I think, there are two main components: the first is that partners need to understand what the benefits are for both parties. These advantages and benefits, namely the conditions on which they are based, should be as transparent and clear as possible. The second is about making compromise decisions. No matter what the agreements are and no matter how many points they have to describe a particular relationship, there are always issues that cannot be foreseen in previously reached agreements. The ability to find compromise solutions in these situations, to maintain mutual respect, and the principle of mutually beneficial cooperation makes long-term partnership possible.
Thank EBA for our long-term partnership!